Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

EPA Expert Advisory Panel Holds First Meeting on 9/11 Contamination
NYCOSH Update on Safety and Health, Vol. VIII, No. 10, April 8, 2004

The first meeting of the EPA’s 17-member advisory committee on the contamination of Lower Manhattan revealed a tension between panelists who expressed primary concern for the health of workers and residents in the area and members who want the committee to focus on answering technical questions raised as a result of the 9/11 attack.

A majority of the committee members who spoke during the March 31 meeting in Manhattan’s Old Customs House wanted to put the emphasis on the health issues. The panelists who emphasized the need to focus on health issues were strongly supported by most of the people in the audience, which consisted largely of Lower Manhattan residents, people who work in the area, union representatives, and representatives of environmental organizations.

At the meeting the EPA outlined a plan to retest 250 to 1,000 of the 4,167 apartments that were cleaned in 2002 and 2003. The apartment cleanup has been sharply criticized by residents, workers and public officials as ineffective and tardy. It is also charged that the cleanup was not done in conformity with applicable legal standards.

During the 7-hour meeting, one hour was devoted to statements from members of the public. One Lower Manhattan resident, Harriet Grimm, expressed a view that was shared by most in the audience "The events of 9/11 were tragic – the voluntary, haphazard, piecemeal cleanup that followed is shameful."

Another audience member, Robert Gulack, whose office is two blocks from Ground Zero, said. "We have waited to have our office buildings tested for two-and-a-half years. Each day the attacks of September 11 become more and more successful as more people are harmed."

One member of the panel, NYCOSH Industrial Hygienist Dave Newman, said that the presentations from the audience were "informative, compelling, and disturbing. It was clear that some of the committee members were previously unaware of some of the important issues that were raised from the floor." Two days before the EPA committee meeting, at a New York City Council hearing, Newman had outlined numerous area of uncertainty facing any effort to understand and remedy the contamination of Lower Manhattan. Newman’s City Council testimony is posted on the Internet here.

The committee did not reach a conclusion concerning its first order of business, how to proceed. The matter will be taken up at a second meeting, at 9 am on April 12 at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Theater 2 (on Chambers Street, just east of West Street), which is handicap accessible. The public is invited to the entire meeting and to participate at designated periods of time. Participants may click here to register in advance at or by calling 800-803-2833.

Copies of prepared statements by audience members — including those of Micki Siegel de Hernandez, the Safety and Health Director of Communications Workers of America District 1, and Robert Gulack, Steward for National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 293 — have been posted on the 9/11 Environmental Action website.



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